In general, the government favored business interests during this era, which is known as the Gilded Age. This was also a period of widespread corruption in government.
Business and commerce flourished during the Gilded Age. But the national government failed to regulate the fast-growing economy. The Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) was created in 1887, but it was feeble. The Supreme Court generally ruled in favor of business during these years. The powerful railroads, in particular, greatly benefited from the government's failure to regulate interstate commerce. It was only after Theodore Roosevelt became president, early in the twentieth century, that the ICC was finally given real enforcement powers.
The failure of the national government to regulate the economy also contributed to two extremely severe economic recessions. In 1873, the country entered a bad four-year recession. A downturn starting in 1893 was even more dire. Thousands of businesses failed, and millions of workers lost their jobs.
Ordinary workers and farmers bore the brunt of the government's capitulation to business interests. Workers formed labor unions, which were often violently suppressed. Farmers organized, too. By 1890, the rising discontent led to the creation of a third party, the Populists. The Populists wanted the government to assist workers and farmers. But the Populists were finished by 1896, after losing an election.
Finally, after 1900, the government began to regulate business and protect some vulnerable groups that had suffered during the Gilded Age.